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STYX II

Styx

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3 stars A strange mix of sounds, since it goes from barroque organ playing (Little Fugue in "G"), to jazz-rock (A Day) to classic rock (I'm Gonna Make You Feel It). I agree on with a review from another Styx Lp which said that Styx are able to play soulfull ballads without sounding too kitschy (Father O.S.A.)...
Report this review (#17426)
Posted Tuesday, December 23, 2003 | Review Permalink
4 stars Among the albums that Styx released in their early days on RCA's Wooden Nickel records, Styx II has the only easily identifiable hit ("Lady"), and is a much better rock record than their previous efforts. The album is not without faults, but is an engaging listen, and you can definitely hear the roots being laid down for the magical sound they would create later in their career.
Report this review (#17427)
Posted Friday, December 26, 2003 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
1 stars For die-hard fans only and unfortunately the first Styx hit in Lady. This first hit is important to understand how they became so popular as they had many sounds in their early day , but only Lady workked . If you listen from Equinox on , you will notice that they copied the sound of this numberand repeated it almost endlessly.
Report this review (#17429)
Posted Wednesday, February 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Too few progressive fans have explored Styx in their pre-Tommy Shaw formation. The five albums that preceeded his arrival have distinct prog leanings, and absolutely deserve an honest listen. In 1973 prog was getting airplay, so many bands followed in the afterwake. Styx had the technical ability, and explored this direction with intriguing results. I don't want to mis-represent however, these are early seventies rock albums with prog workouts - not prog albums.

Another contributing factor to the experimentation in the music, was of course the mind expanding drugs still heartilly consumed in the first years of the seventies before cocaine (and Tommy Shaw) took over. This album reeks of marijuana, yet remains focused and ambitious.

"You Need Love" features a Texas boogie-shuffle driven along powerfully by the rhythm section, fronted by dual "lead guitar and churning organ runs. Typical seventies verse/verse/chorus structure is in place, but when they reach the chorus the Texas vanishes and it's pure Lennon/McCartney territory complete with tight, three-part harmonies.

"Lady" roots the album, and lets you know this isn't going to be a by-the-numbers affair. "Lady" features a beautiful melody that stays with you for hours. It begins tenderly with piano and voice, building to the powerful chorus, and concluding with a Bolero rave up. The guitar solo is especially tasteful, never stretching over into indulgence. And those incredible harmonies, produced with just the right touch of echo. Perfection.

"A Day" is an eight minute lava lamp, black light, velvet poster, smokey room excursion - and the first prog workout on this album. It begins slowly with acoustic guitar, autoharp, bass and percussion, followed by the voice of John Curulewski. He along with Dennis DeYoung and John Panozzo were the main purveyors of progressive ideas within the band, and when he left, it appears quite a bit of that spirit went with him. His voice is clear and strong, and nearly the same range and timbre as Dennis DeYoung. After 3:45 of gorgeous build up, the rhythm section goes Miles Davis, and those dual lead guitars swoop in and dance for a minute or so. They are then overtaken by a wonderful and dexterious organ solo, which as it comes to an end, signals the re-emergence of the original theme.

"You Better Ask" is another Curulewski composition, and his last on the album. This is Seventies southern rock. The kind of thing you would hear from an ambitious bar band. It's confident, and competently executed. Not prog, but quite nice.

"Little Fugue In "G"" composed by Bach, and played by Dennis DeYoung on the Cathedral of St. James pipe organ in Chicago.

"Father O.S.A." segues from "Little Fugue In "G"" and is the second prog workout. This song in many ways forshadows "Come Sail Away". It's sound is ENORMOUS, powered as it is by the same pipe organ as the intro. There is a strong Beatles vibe as the structure is very "Hey Jude", starting out simply before building to that anthemic, arena rock sway. Just a whiff of pomposity - but it's never overbearing. A wonderful track.

"Earl Of Roseland" shows us what would both elevate Styx to superstar status, and kill them off commercially - unchecked Dennis DeYoung. Embryonic precursor to the themes behind the Paradise Theater album, featuring childhood stories, memories of better times, and neighborhood trials. Musically this is a pretty straight-forward rocker, guitars and organ battle, with the percussion and bass crashing and rolling along. My beef here is with the harmonies. Styx is a unit with the tendancy to overindulge in certain respects, and where early Styx is concerned it often landed on the vocals. Just because you have the ability to do tight three part harmonies, doesn't mean they need to be on every track.

"I'm Gonna Make You Feel It" - wraps up the album with James Young on vocals. James has a fine voice and it's featured well here, as on the opening track "You Need Love". This is another rocker, and it burns along quite nicely. A main dual-guitar riff is supported by swirling organ and explosive percussion. The guitar solo here is also James, and it's tasteful and well played. James is really the rocker of this period, later on Tommy would provide the bridge between him and Dennis that resulted in their superstardom.

There's quite a bit here that prog fans can sink their teeth into. Styx are young and hungry, with a few more albums to go before they hit it big. All of the early albums deserve some attention, but perhaps this one should be first. It has everything this lineup had to offer (short of the superior production offered to them by A&M for their album Equinox). We all know where they went from here, but the horizon is fuzzy at this time and Styx don't quite know which way to go yet. That fact alone allows several sides of the band to shine on this release. Definately worth a listen, and the remastered cd improves somewhat on the overall sound quality of the album

Report this review (#17430)
Posted Monday, July 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 - Lighten up peeps, this is actually a fun album to listen to.

You Need Love is great sounding arena rock. Nice solid sounding guitar work and vocals. The song is FUN

Lady the first "hit" is the worst song here and was the harbinger of crappy DeYoung piffle to follow. I absolutely despise this song. Had it been the first song I ever heard by them I would have never purchased the album.

A Day is the first prog rock song on the album. I personally like it a lot. Nothing flashy but it just sounds great and has a great feeling during the jam session in the middle of the song. Again, don't take it like its brain surgery and you'll realize just how good it sounds.

You Better Ask is a stupid song and keeping with the sense of humour idea I can let it pass. It's a standard rock song and just as bad as Lady. My bet is Lady is the before song and this is the after song, but since it's tongue in cheek it's actually tolerable.

Little Fugue and Father OSA get us back to proper prog and again, if you can live without spectacular riff shreading musicianship and can just enjoy the ambience and feel of the song you will really enjoy it.

Earl of Roseland is a soso standard rock tune. Not bad, not great and even has some interesting moments in the middle.

I'm Gonna Make You Feel It. I wish they had explored this a little more. It had as much potential as You Need Love at the beginning but it's like they just said "oops, outa time THAT"S A RAP".

Anyhow, this is really my favorite Styx album. Pieces of Eight being the last one I can actually listen to. They were still figuring out how they were gonna do things so it's all over the map. I really like the sound they had though. The guitars, keyboards, drums, bass and vocals are pretty much perfect. The songs aren't necessarily the best they ever did, but to me it's the best they ever sounded.

Report this review (#17431)
Posted Tuesday, May 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars 3.5 Stars - hands down!!! This is the follow-up to Styx's debut album and what a difference!!! The album was entirely written by the members of the band and what an amazing bunch of songwriters they are. Dennis DeYoung shines on this album, especially on "Father O.S.A" and the hit single "Lady." John Curulewski, who unfortunately left the band in 1975 before they really broke big, added the album's epic "A Day." As far as production quality, this album still sounds fresh today!!

I know many prog fans may write "Lady" off as pop / rock and I won't disagree, but the album as a whole shows what Styx were to become several years later. This album is art rock at its finest and shows Dennis DeYoung in those years before rock stardom and a love for opera ruined his songwriting ability. This is just a preview of things to come, perhaps an early predecessor to "Equinox" or "Crystal Ball."

Report this review (#38850)
Posted Friday, July 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
daveconn
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars One of those early wonders like Fly By Night that bespeaks great things for the future. Of course it contains "Lady" in all of its familiar raiment, and the song is crystallized perfection, but just as likely to strike a chord with prog fans are "You Need Love," "Earl of Roseland" and the combination of "Little Fugue" and "Father O.S.A." Styx didn't remove the rock & roll swagger from their muse, and a "You Better Ask" or "I'm Gonna Make You Feel It" are hardly progressive insights, but not everyone can be as consistently high-minded as Yes or Genesis. If "Lady" has left this good company unescorted into the future, then take a little trip back. You'll discover a band that made good use of harmonies, could write elastic arrangements with the best of them, and understood prog's archetypes. John Curulewski's "You Better Ask," is the exception, a funky rock number that underscores the need for "safe" sex. It does end with a nod to "Strangers In The Night," which reminds me of a musical joke circulating at the time that had a ribald little story sung to the melody of "Strangers..." (but enough about that). Curulewski's "A Day" is closer to the dreamy vibe of prog, though it has more in common with CSN ("Almost Cut My Hair") than prog proper. Though Dennis DeYoung would favor ballads like "Lady" in the long run, here he writes a lot of heavy material, perhaps as a concession to the fact that Styx' vision was aligned to the hard, heavy right of Dennis' softer, lefter leanings. As with Kerry Livgren and Kansas, DeYoung and Styx can lead with keyboards or guitars, which allows them to pursue hard and soft prog passages. Sometimes, Styx slips into hard rock phrasings (as did Kansas), but in doing so they helped forge a new style of prog that would be adopted by bands like Boston and proved more palatable to American ears. I'd recommend this album even if it didn't harbor a certain "Lady," and suspect that Styx II is the one to own among the band's early elpees.
Report this review (#47597)
Posted Tuesday, September 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Styx' second album (and it IS there second, not "Serpent is Rising" despite one of the rare errors on ProgArchives ... ) is the highlite of their Wooden Nickel recordings. But first, you have to get past the most played song from this period: "Lady"

If you're like me, "Lady" is the kind of track that you cranked up as a young progger ... only to cringe at the formulaic guitar/keyboard riffs and pitch-perfect harmonies in later years. Worthy only as a "gateway drug" to better prog it is, at best only a guilty pleasure for me now.

The real treat on this album (for me) is the "Little Fugue in 'G'"/"Father O.S.A." combination! Say what you will about his power ballads and drippy love songs, DeYoung was always had progworthy keyboard talent. The Pipe Organ from "Little Fugue ..." blends seamlessly with "Father O.S.A.", and returns to lend the track a level of depth and feeling that will rarely, if ever be matched again by Styx. Floating, ethereal and pompous, it's my favorite track on the album.

The track "A Day" also shows off the band's musical talent very well ... even if it sounds very un-like what we've come to expect from Styx. The song features quite a bit of back- and-forth organ and guitar jams, set over a cool jazzy, almost Canterbury beat interspersed with mellow, groovy vocal segments and gentle harmonies. Very un-Styx like but very likeable.

The final track of note is "Earl of Roseland", an autobiographical DeYoung rocker complete with all the soaring harmonies and flashy keyboard work that you'd expect ... but with a harsher, less polished edge that somehow makes this track more appealing than some of their later, commercial fare.

In all, Styx II is probably the most traditionally progressive of all of Styx' early albums and in that sense is probably the most worth checking out if you're just going to listen to one. And no progger should feel embarrased to have this in his or her collection.

Report this review (#48197)
Posted Saturday, September 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
1 stars This is a step up from their debut album, if slightly. It isn't all electric screeching now, but there is some order. Lady is approaching pretty, and A Day is a very nice song, with good lyrics and layered percussion. Towards the end, they rock out, but not in a chaotic, asking-for-endurance way that wasn't rare on their first album. Little Fugue in "G" is another pretty song, all organs, keyboards and whatnot. Father O.S.A. has some nice acoustic moments. The rest of the songs are still very loud and not very lush or flowing. But it is an improvement, however slight.
Report this review (#89999)
Posted Monday, September 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album is proof that Styx is very underrated as band. I was very curious and had no idea of what I would get with this. It turned out to be a great surprise. The music on here is much like Tychovski said. It is good rock music with progressive leanings, at times strong, and at other times, distant. I was absolutely stunned by "A Day". It is so delicate in the beginning and builds up to a nice guitar solo and transitions into an organ solo in a time signature that switches between 3/4 and 5/4. Then suddenly goes back to its delicate beginning. It kind of puts me in a dark cavern, not an ugly, dirty one, but a beatiful one, lit by crystals, with rivers flowing throw it. Maybe I'm crazy though. I think the harp sounds help give me that picture a lot. It is mini-masterpiece of a song in my mind though. Other songs I like a lot are Bach's "Little Fugue in "G"", "Father O.S.A.", and "Earl of Roseland". The other songs are decent rock tunes, except for "Lady" (sorry, just don't like it). Add these together and it makes a good proggish rock album. 3.5 stars.
Report this review (#136369)
Posted Wednesday, September 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A memorable album!

Let me put it this way: as far as Styx' fans concern this might not be a seminal album to consider; and it's not truly a prog album in conservative way . or something that in the past called it something as "art rock". In a more open mind way, this album does have some prog elements as well, even though not symphonic. However, in subjective judgment from my point of view this album has been very critical to develop me further as prog lover and it has been part of my life. My first collection of this album was in cassette format but I don't have it anymore now. It was released when I was a 13-year old boy who started to learn to love music. The cassette was not actually mine, it was my brother (Jokky)'s cassette and I only listened to it when I was on holidays in Jakarta when I was 15-year old. Oh man . the third track "A Day" really blew me away at first listen! It's so powerful in melody, lyrics as well as composition. Unfortunately when I returned back to my small city Madiun, I could not find the album in local store. So, I got only the compilation of Styx until their fourth album. Only recently I got this album from my colleague prog head Koni. Thanks man!

The opening track "You Need Love" (3:44) might not be something that catches your attention at all when you hear the song at first time. But if you look this song into deep, you will find that all key characteristics of Styx sound was built through this track. Look how the choirs are performed and how Dennis De Young handles vocal department. The music grooves as well as guitar solo confirm the characteristics of Styx music which will carry forward into later days. "Lady" (2:56) was a major hit and is still now being played by FM radio because its pop orientation.

"A Day" (8:19) is a very melodic song with mellow opening, powerful singing style. The music is characterized by percussion as rhythm section augmented with keyboard and good bass guitar. "Woke up in rainy autumn. Morning mist beginning to wane. And the birds of the winged trees. Calling my name.." is a great opening verse of the lyrics and it becomes much melodic during chorus " Listen to the flowing streams. Golden in the shelter of my dreams. Playing a song on the meadow that echoes with love." oh man .. what a great melody!!! When the music enters interlude part, it turns the style into a bit of jazzy style with bass guitar dominates the rhythm section backed with drums, accompanying excellent guitar solo. Once the guitar solo is done, organ continues the solo nicely. I really love this part and it's a very memorable part of the song. Hey, don't get me wrong .. I love this song the whole thing for an 8 minute duration!

"You Better Ask" (3:54) is a jazzy-pop style which is quite catchy. "Little Fugue in G" (1:17) is basically a very nice organ work that reminds me the days when I used bicycle to transport everywhere (and I am now still bicycling to the office - so, basically there is no life improvement in me since I was 13 year old!). The organ work is so catchy and memorable, it serves as great opening for the next great song: "Father O.S.A. " (7:08). It starts beautifully with excellent drumming right after the organ sound fades out, followed with nice guitar riffs that become critical elements of this excellent track. The opening lyrical verse: " Father. You're a sad old man. Your tawdry vest is gray." is so powerful for me, personally and it means a lot. Well yeah, my dad passed away when I was five years old . so this opening lyrics suit my taste and feeling. The music is also nice, combining great guitar work, soaring organ work and good drum work.

The two concluding tracks are not bad also with "Earl Of Roseland" (4:30) reminds me to the sound of Uriah Heep. "I'm Gonna Make You Feel It" (2:23) has a nice combination of organ sound and guitar riffs. The choirs are also good. The guitar solo at the end of the track is also good.

Overall, this is definitely a memorable album for me personally. It has been part of my life because I grew with this album. I remember vividly that I later loved "Man of Miracles" album as well. I do not know about you. But if you like the music of Styx, you should buy this album as well. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW (i-Rock! Music Community)

Report this review (#175837)
Posted Tuesday, July 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
1 stars Styx II. I think they make me despise numerals.

And their "oh so original" brand of jumbled power pop/prog is so weak. Here we find them sacrificing their progressive tendencies for a much more radio friendly and arena rock landscape.

The opener is pretty biting, if the vocals are a bit weak. The guitars wail, and the soloing, while needless, is kind of fun. The lyrics are still a massive load of banal garbage, but at least they aren't going punk! I need not inhibit nightmares...

Their emotional hit Lady is next up, and I wish it wasn't. this is about as progressive as a car in reverse, but it is still kind of nice. They rely on theatrics, but are very poor in their execution. Those vocals make me weep. Indeed, this record is a step up from their debut, but when their debut is 6 feet under, stepping up is still in the mud. And that is what this album is, mud. Each aspect is dirty and perverted.

The prog? hardly existent. The rock? Bland and incontrovertibly a rip off of better bands. The emotion? Well, it is here I suppose. They sound like they give a damn about what they are doing. I sure don't. A Day is some softer movement, but it is heavy handed and only minimally interesting. The melodies are half baked, and that piano fill is just stupid. Two minutes in and the song is finally over. Wait, this song is almost 9 minutes long? Oh dear. I do so very much dislike torturing myself. Meandering and repetitive.

And in the greatest act of diversity possible, they rip out with pathetic southern rock. To hell with this, pick one band to clone and stick with it! It is shallow, and the drumming pales in comparison to anyone I can think of form this era. Second rate band Styx always were. Little fugue in "G" must be a joke. I like it, but this is just an ELP copycat technique. Where is Styx's identity? Nowhere. They don't have one. They just take from everyone else. And fail most of the time. This I think is why the majority of regular folk despise progressive music. This is plain bad.

Father OSA isn't much better, with the laughable soft rock proto-power ballad, with amateur organ sound. I kind of like the basic melody, though. But it is still a very shallow song. Those vocals. Do they actually think this is emotional singing? Does the guy eat cardboard? I think so. So bland and mediocre were Styx, even at their peak. This isn't their peak, but it is all pretty much a hole.

Closing with a good song might be a good idea. They do. I'm Gonna Make You Feel It is a hard rock song, with no progressive pretensions at all, and the vocal harmonies aren't too shabby. Well, I might be a bit too kind here. Still a raw and weak song, with keys flying high, just not well. At least it is short, I say.

Styx are not a cohesive unit, yet. And they do progressive rock atrociously. But, the songwriting is stronger, for their increased focus, but this is still a painful listen.

Best Song - Lady

Worst Song - Everything else

*1/2 stars.

Report this review (#212854)
Posted Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars I'm gonna make you hear it!

This second Styx album is one of my favourite Styx albums, rivalled only by The Grand Illusion. Of the Wooden Nickel albums (the band's first four), Styx II is the most consistent and also the most progressive. It starts out strongly with You Need Love with swirling synthesisers and operatic harmony vocals. I really like the introduction to this song.

Lady became a small hit, I think, and I can see why. It is highly melodic and memorable. However, this one is not one of my favourites. The lead vocals are always my biggest problem with Styx and it is very clear on this particular track. The good thing is that they don't drag it out, it is just under three minutes long.

The eight plus minute A Day is perhaps the most interesting track from a Prog perspective. It is a somewhat jazzy song that somehow reminds me of the style of Yes' two first albums. Yes was, after all, most probably one of Styx' sources of inspiration. I think this is an excellent song that is very much in line with early British Symphonic Prog. This is my personal favourite Styx song. Even the lead vocals are good this time!

However, Styx are quick to destroy the Prog mode with the next track You Better Ask, easily my least favourite of the album. It is a rather simple and cheerful, up tempo song and apart from a nice, short keyboard solo it has few redeeming features. However, it does not distract too much from the flow of the album. Next thing on the menu is a short Little Fugue In 'G' which is a nice little piece played on church organ leading straight into Father O.S.A, another good song. Here we are treated to another song that justifies the group's presence in the Prog Related category with some Queen-like harmony vocals, tasteful electric and acoustic guitars and assorted keyboards.

The album closes with a couple of decent up tempo, melodic Rock songs in Earl Of Roseland and I'm Gonna Make You Feel It. The latter has slightly the same style as the opener.

I can really recommend this early Styx album as I think it is one of the band's best albums. It is not quite excellent, however. But it is one of those albums on which the group came as close to excellence as they ever came.

The best way to get the album now is, I believe, on the 2CD set The Complete Wooden Nickel Recordings which comprises the band's first four albums. While the Styx II segment of that compilation is the best, there are several other good songs and with the exception of the weak debut, the other albums here all deserve to be heard. You also get one bonus track called Unfinished Song. It is not at all as unfinished as its title implies. Rather, it is better than most of the songs from the original albums!

Three solid stars for Styx II.

Report this review (#227416)
Posted Saturday, July 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Second Styx album is different from their début. There they really have a control on production, music has better structure, sound - better balance. But I miss raw energy and freshness of the debut.

There is obvious they choosed the direction. Choral vocals, orchestrated production, lighter sound and softer songs - there is the beginning of their way to what they became in late 70-s."Lady" is their proto-ballade which gave a birth to more different clones on their later albums.

Being a bit more professional than previous one, this album showed the way for Styx future direction. And in many moments I prefer the debut one.Around 2,5.

Report this review (#262535)
Posted Tuesday, January 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The sophomore album by Styx proves to be a strong improvement upon the sort of proposal reflected in the band's debut effort. While the "Styx" album was groovy and entertaining, it was mostly an attempt to create something near art-rock with a large amoubnt of alien material. On the other hand, "Styx II" shows the quartet of Young, DeYoung, Curulewski and the Panozzo twins elaborating a stronger sound and setting more convincign arrangements for the compositional ideas' frameworks. The opener 'YouNeed Love' is a catchy uptempo rocker that wouldn't have been out of place in any Uriah Heep album during their golden years. The brief but electrifying organ solo executed by DeYound in the interlude is amazing, something like a Lord-meets-Emerson kind of thing. 'Lady' is the next song, loved by many and maligned by many others, I stand near the former. It is a power-ballad full of the sweetness one can expect from this kind of songs, but its logical mellow vibe doesn't sound overwhelming to my ears: one can certainly describe this 3- minute long hit song as a mixture of Elton John and Uriah Heep with subtile traces of Yes brought in the mix, plus a killer guitar lead during the last repeated chorus. It is true that DeYoung always admired Yes, ELP and Pink Floyd, and that feeling has always been reflected in many other songs written by his colleagues. In fact, the youngest one in the band, John Curulewski, brings the gem of the album's first half - 'A Day'. With its 8+ minute timespan, I believe it is the longest Styx song ever. Its main body is a slow sung section that sounds like a jazzier version of pre-Wakeman Yes: Curulewski's interventions on autoharp, 12-string guitar and ARP create pertinent sonic nuances while DeYoung uses his electric and grand piano parts to complement the basic rhythmic scheme. The instrumental interlude enhances the jazz factor and provides a major dose of energy: with a tempo that alternates 6/8 and 5/4 in the Panozzos' capable hands, the dual guitars and the Hammond organ successively state the dominant sounds. Never again you will hear Styx doing something like this, and it is really impressive as a cleverly constructed source of progressive rock. Also Curulewski-penned, 'You Better Ask' is an uptempo rocker whose lyrics sarcastically deal with the subject of venereal diseases that emerge from the practice of careless sexual fun. This song sounds like a middle point between Uriah and The Stones. The closing quote of 'Strangers In The Night' as if played on a calliope while a devilish laughter carries on completes the humorous note delivered on this song (Procol Harum also made a humorous song about this otherwise serious subject). The album's second half open up with another grand progressive gesture, only thsi time sounding like typical Styx: of course, I'm referrign to the pairing of Bach's 'Little Fugue in G' and DeYoung's 'Father O.S.A.'. The Fugue is performed on a real pipe organ, in this way announcing the solemnity that will impose itself on the following track. With its anti-clerical (not anti-Christian) lyrics, DeYoung urges us to seek and find the truth about God by ourselves instead of seeking for standard answers in the mouths of formal religious leaders. The main melody constructed on teh dual guitars and subsequent solos are enough themselves to provide convenient power for this song, but the pipe organ passages and solo piano fade-out are also functional to complete the environment. John Panozzo's drumming (plus tympani and bells) is also a major asset in this song's peculiar splendour. The heavier 'Earl Of Roseland' provides the most intelligent rocker in the album, while 'I'm Gonna Make YouFeel It' states a similar groove to that of the opener. 3.75 stars for this one... and the best from the Curulewski years was yet to come with "The Serpent Is Rising", but that is a matter for another review.
Report this review (#265731)
Posted Friday, February 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Is this the second Styx album? How did you know, the title Styx II? What would have happened in the old days before ProgArchives or Amazon of Allmusic.com? I wouldn't have known if 'The Serpent is rising' was their third of eleventh album? So it seemed quite reasonable to call it Styx II. But what does the music sound like?

It starts off with the hard-rocking 'You need love' with an enthusiastic James Young lead vocal, this song also has some psychedelic feeling with the organs and stuff. Now it meanders a bit, I think it would have been better to stick with the original hard rock sound rather than trying to mish mash it with the psychedelic/bubble gum parts, but at least they were trying to do something different, I mean Bubble-gum psych meets lean-mean hard rock? This is followed by 'Lady', a grand ballad that builds into more rocking parts. Although this is a Dennis DeYoung song, in the chorus the band sing in harmony. The organs add a nice touch to this romantic song. The is followed by A Day, which is a wonderful 8 minute song from John Curulewski. It's mellow and acoustic, with some nice bongo drums or something, and has an extended instrumental in the middle! This song actually sounds like a progressive rock song! But John Curuleski's songs often are more progressive then Dennis or James (or Tommy Shaw for that matter), maybe he was in the wrong band? But he follows it up with an American Rock number, 'You better ask', but maybe this is a parody of American Rock. So many AR songs are about a one night stand someone picked up in a bar and about glorifying the one-night stand. This song is about a one-ngihter that John picked up in the bar, but this is anything but glorious, as John gets the girl pregnant, her father looks at him real mean and he even ends up with an STD! The lyrics are hilarious and will have you (well that means me) in stitches!

We flip over and hear an organ solo, actually it's a classical music piece, and leads into 'Father OSA". This is Dennis DeYoung's attempt at a big prog epic. Usually his 7-minute songs are only good for about the first four minutes (Suite Madame Blue, Ballerina, etc.) and then become a bit ( A BIT! We'll charge you with understatement Sir!) repetitious, to drag out to the 7 minutes, and this is no exception. That said, the opening melody that carries most of the song is so good that it feels more prophetic than repetitive, possibly the best song to go seven minutes that Dennis DeYoung did? Well possibly! Though I do think he wrote a song called 'Come sail away", can't remember how long it was though... This album is rounded out with two fairly short hard-rock songs, 'Earl of roseland' and 'I'm gonna make you feel it'. The first one is actually dragged out to almost five minutes, and I think it would have been better left at about three and a half, there's too many un-necessary guitar solos fleshing this song out. That said, I really like this song, it's my personal favourite from the album, because it's not totally generic hard rock, the riffs deviate from predictable blues based heavy riffs quite enough to be interesting, catchy chorus too! The closing 'I'm gonna make you feel it' is a hard-rock blast and it only lasts 2:21. Great, powerful vocals from James Young who didn't write the song, Dennis did. See, they were being nice to one another at this time, but later on...

Alla in all, there is nothing bad herem but essentially there is only seven songs, and this album just misses the 35 minute mark. We're not really getting enough quality material from Styx to be able to give them 5. None of these songs are bad, no not at all, but some are just fleshed out a bit too much with needless soloing (I'm not talking about 'A Day', the soloing on that is superb), in an attempt to drag the songs out to longer times to make them seem more progressive than they really are. They did this constantly through their glory period (73-83), if you can call it that! It would have been better to reduce fleshing out the songs and instead include more songs so the listener has more to chew on. They've put out enough great material through the seventies to make a 5 star album, but usually they have five or six excellent songs, and then the last song is dragged out to flesh out the album. They did this on all the albums that followed right through to Paradise Theatre, with a couple of exception (notably the weak 'Cornerstone', and 'Man of Miracles' which suffered from too many songs sounding the same). They even did it on the first album, dragging out the first song too long with talking and other things.

Anywa, Styx II is one of their better albums.

Report this review (#280933)
Posted Saturday, May 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Lady arrives early to one lame party

When the first Styx album bombed the band convinced their label they should have more control of the second album, which they were granted. But because the promotion they got was basically nil, the results were not much different in terms of success. While some called the second album a huge leap forward from the debut in quality and production, I can only agree on the latter. The debut is a more memorable collection of music despite Styx II having two very important tracks.

Dennis DeYoung took control of Styx II and wrote all but two of the songs, but as a writer he was not yet at his creative peak. The exception was the track "Lady" (written for his wife Suzanne) which gave a startling insight into his skills at writing those romantic power ballads which would be so prominent on future albums. It was a song he was urged to write by label guy Bill Traut in an attempt to have some commercial breakthrough, Traut wanted a song which would perk the ears of teenage girls. The other guys in the band were not pleased by "Lady" in another eerie foreshadow of tension coming five years later. But they gave in and the song would eventually be crucial in helping to break the band nationally, though it did not happen right away. The song itself is a near perfect pop song with a gorgeous melody and a powerful chorus. The moody progger of the band, the late guitarist John Curulewski, disliked the song but frequently had good ideas. He added those nice rhythm guitar chugs through the verses while James Young took the big swipes at the end. "Lady" is a great single but one that arrived too early to the party Styx were at in 1973. It's a song that would help define Dennis DeYoung and begin to find them a radio audience.

For his part Curulewski contributed "A Day" which was the proggy highlight of the album, an 8-minute plus drifting dirge of soft emotions which rolls over the listening in waves. Gentle acoustic guitars and sad piano, light bass and drums, trippy effects throughout. Eventually it builds into a more fiery jam with dual lead electric guitars. His more fragile and plaintive vocal delivery is a stark contrast to the usual Styx bombast, and the song sounds more like a lazy Allman Brothers track or a Traffic number than a Styx song. This is the kind of wonderful "box of chocolates" albums listeners were treated to in those days. The musicians were experimenting as songwriters and nothing was concrete, so you have some wildly diverse material that can sound nothing like the Styx default "sound" you have in your mind. John's other track was the somewhat silly but fun "You Better Ask" which discusses his unfortunate encounters with "social diseases."

The rest of the album served up DeYoung's nice treatment of a Bach piece which he recorded by running a long cable from the church organ at the Cathedral of St. James down the street from the studio. His other originals were not his best work and he began a period of self-doubt as a writer, turning over some of the leadership on the next album to the others. "Earl of Roseland" was a warm and nostalgic lyrical reminisce of the band's early days in their neighborhood, but falls rather flat as good music goes. "Father OSA" was a song about his Dad which is personal and has some nice keyboard work, but again, these songs just do not deliver the goods. I'm surprised it is something of a favorite to Styx fans.

Styx II is a disappointing album and "for fans" of the band, and to fans I recommend it for what is one of John Curulewski's best tracks, "A Day." Beyond that, I would not recommend the album except as part of the excellent collection "The Complete Wooden Nickel Recordings" which is the best way to experience the first four Styx albums on CD.

Report this review (#438535)
Posted Sunday, April 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
stefro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A superior sequel to an ambitious if somewhat inconsistent debut, 'Styx II' finds the Chicago rockers fine-tuning their blustery, blues-pop-and-prog. Whilst the group's self-titled debut didn't lack energy and drive, it was an awkwardly-constructed affair that didn't quite manage to blend it's many disparate elements. A slicker, more focused effort, this follow-up starts to build on the fragments of promise shown in such compositions as the lengthy 'Movement For A Common Man', adding a stylish pop veneer, some skilfully-deployed Crosby, Stills & Nash-style vocal harmonies and a much stronger progressive streak embodied by some bold instrumental passages that make a mockery out of the group's detractors who claim Styx are nothing more than just another AOR group. 'Styx II' also features one of the group's biggest hits in the shape of the part-ballad, part- rocker 'Lady', though at the time of the album's 1973 release it was very much a case of the hit that wasn't. Confused? Well, of course you are. At the time of the album's release Styx were still very much a local act with a small-but-growing fanbase who had yet to make any kind of mark on the mainstream. 'Lady' wasn't picked up by radio stations for a good two years, finally making an impression after the release of Styx's third album 'The Serpent Is Rising', pushing the five-man outfit well-and-truly into the national spotlight. 'Lady' aside, however, 'Styx II' is a definite improvement in virtually every department. There's a real sense of cohesion on impressive, multi-part tracks such as the organ-blessed 'A Day', one of the group's best early recordings, whilst the theatrical imprint vocalist Dennis DeYoung would push in later years starts to raise it's colourful head on the bluesy 'You Better Ask'. There's also a knowing wink to the members origins on the slyly laconic 'Earl Of Roseland', which furrows straight rock energy into kitsch prog-pop passages in that peculiar Styx manner that gives so much of their material that twinkling, almost effervescent edge. Combining earthy rock 'n' roll, prog- tinged flights of fancy, spectacular harmonies and pacey, fluid instrumental flourishes 'Styx II' marks the high point of the outfit's early phase. Of all the Wooden Nickel recordings this is the one that manages to get the right balance between the members commercial aspirations and their bright-eyed artistic excesses, a difficult balancing act indeed.

STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012

Report this review (#669233)
Posted Tuesday, March 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Styx-Styx II

After their stellar debut, Styx continued down a similar path of progressive rock, except this album features more variety between styles.

The album begins with a Beatle-esque rocker 'You Need Love', which is catchy but is lacking compared to the more Deep Purple-like rockers of the previous album. The other shorter rocking tracks are unfortunately the weaker tracks, the other shorter songs being the annoying 'You Better Ask' and the decent yet bland 'I'm Going to Make You Feel It'. One of the better songs is the popular 'Lady', which is Styx's first venture into power ballads that they would become so known for in the later 70's. It has a great build up, and nice lyrics. My favorite from the album is definitely the 8-minute 'A Day', which is one of my favorite Styx songs. I love guitarist John Curulewski's vocals in this bluesy and meandering prog rock masterpiece. 'Father OSA' is another highlight, having some great organ work by Dennis DeYoung.

The lyrics fluctuate quite a bit, ranging from happy-go-lucky lyrics on songs like 'You Need Love' and 'Earl of Roseland' to darker more ominous tracks like 'A Day'.

Overall, I don't have much else to say about this album. I don't find it nearly as good as their debut, but it still has it's shining moments and I recommend mostly for the great track 'A Day'.

Hope you found this review helpful.

(Originally written for www.MetalMusicArchives.com on October 18th 2014.)

Report this review (#1293132)
Posted Friday, October 17, 2014 | Review Permalink

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